Colombia: Homicide

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 27th January 2017.

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Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, if he will make representations to his Colombian counterpart on the targeting of members of the Patriotic March by paramilitaries.

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, if he will make representations to his Colombian counterpart on the reported assassination of HernĂ¡n Agames on 19 January 2017.

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Minister of State

We are concerned by the increasing number of reported killings of civil society figures and activists in Colombia. Since the beginning of 2017, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has received reports of at least ten murders where the victims appear to have been targeted for their role as human rights defenders, or because they are members of unions or political groups such as Marcha Patriotica, including Hernan Agames, Yanetin Calvache, Olmeido Pito Garcia, Aldemar Parra Garcia, Emilsen Manyoma, Joe Javier Rodallega and Juan de la Cruz Mosquera.

The Prime Minister raised the issue of the levels of violence against human rights defenders with President Santos during the State Visit in November. Respect for human rights was also included in their joint declaration. I and Ministerial colleagues will continue to raise our human rights concerns with our Colombian counterparts.

Working together to improve respect for human rights is a key part of our relationship with the Colombian Government and civil society. At a practical level, our Ambassador to Colombia is a member of the group "Ambassadors with Defenders" which promotes the work of human rights defenders and raises concerns about specific cases with the Colombian Government. The group will meet the Colombian Attorney-General to discuss the continued murders against human rights defenders, including those killed in recent weeks. On 19 January, British Embassy staff in Bogota met Colombian NGO Somos Defensores to discuss the recent murders. They also took part in a visit to South Bolivar, where local community leaders have voiced concerns about their security. As a result of this visit, the Office of the Presidential Advisor on Human rights committed to request the Colombian Ministry of Defence to provide additional security measures for community leaders.

The Colombian Government recognises the threats faced by human rights defenders and acknowledges the challenges it faces in implementing the peace agreement with the FARC. In December, the Office of the Presidential Advisor for Human Rights (OHCHR) made a statement which linked an increase in incidents to areas vacated by the FARC. President Santos also gave a speech on 22 November in which he said he would work with Governors of affected areas and the Attorney General to accelerate investigations into murders of human rights defenders to find those responsible.

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